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How do we conquer a disposable society?

Posted on November 6, 2013 by Taber Times

Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch has indeed become our ultimate role model.

He’s green — so therefore by definition the grumpiest Muppet is, in a sense, environmentally friendly. He’s also an old cuss who lives in a garbage can and loves to recycle trash.

In theory, he’s a hero in today’s disposable society. In practice, we shouldn’t discard of things so quickly and easily, without regard for the consequences of our sometimes reckless behaviours.

We don’t darn socks anymore, we just toss ‘em. We don’t patch jeans anymore, we just go to a store and buy another cheap and often cheaply-made pair (or perhaps some might venture out to a thrift store and buy a second-hand pair). Our electronics are built to last a couple of months tops, it seems, before expiring.

The fruit and vegetables we buy are already ripe and almost rotting before our basic food needs even hit the grocery store shelves.

Either that or they’re not ripe enough and take weeks to ripen to consume. Our reliance is on pre-packaged franken-foods designed from man-made chemicals that make up our supposed daily food groups that embalm our vital organs for an eternity but kill us before our time.

But, we are creatures of habit are we not?

For four decades I have witnessed the decline of not only Western Civilization but the entire planet. It’s as if our self-destruct buttons have been depressed, waiting irrationally as we embark on our favourite pastime — buying. And of course, mostly by credit.

I remember when I first became a member of the working class. I got a part-time job pumping gas as a teenager and the job provided me with a disposable income.

I lived in a small southern Alberta town and would travel to Lethbridge frequently for shopping trips and to treat myself to some fast food, because at the time the only franchise store available in the small town was a 7-11.

I would hit the mall, at the time the cool and hip mall was the old Bay mall, which housed Sam the Record Man and also Eatons. There was also Park Place Mall and Lethbridge’s one and only Wal-Mart was where Shopper’s Drug Mart is now, at College Centre.

I would buy CDs, DVDs, videocassettes, books, electronic gadgets, video game systems, and games plus I would eat out and take in many a movie at the Movie Mill and at the old Paramount Theatre, which is now a bank, and the old Lethbridge Centre cinemas.

Boy, would I spend. And where is all the stuff I needed so badly at the time now? Well, a lot of it is probably long gone in the trash and/or bought from a pawn shop, garage sale or from a thrift store, where I donated it. It was discarded in a dumpster, much like pumpkin guts after being carved or all the food that wasn’t ate on my plate at dinner.

We have most definitely become a society of wasteful Wandas and Walters.

So why do we do it? Because…we feel as though we need to, in order to be part of the flock. The sheep that is led to the proverbial slaughter to stores and mega mecca shopping complexes that have what we all need.

More of everything and anything. I must have the latest and greatest Smartphone or tablet, as the one I just bought is already one year old. I should get a new wardrobe, as my clothes are just not the flavour of the week. I better Tweet or post meaningless anecdotes on the Book or I am out of the social loop.

I’m guilty…really guilty of being that guy. I preach but I do not practice what I speak of. Sure, I’ve purged and decided to grow up and move on from wanting to buy all the goodies I deem necessary, when in fact they are only fodder in the grand scheme of things. Like the saying goes, “the things you own start owning you,” eventually.

Buying is what we do. We buy artificial joy relentlessly, as we maneuver through life searching for individual pursuits of happiness.

When we become restless or our emotions run rampant we usually head to the consumer marketplace to soothe our souls — whether it be the corner store to buy some sweets or cigarettes, or the liquor store to buy some mind-numbing elixir, or the mall for new clothes and/or a new do.

I remember a time when treats were a treat, bought only from time to time, rather than excessively each day or every other day.

Or a visit to the multi-plex theatre was only a bi-monthly or monthly activity. Date night was a special night when you went out some place special with a special someone to show you care.

It seems many of today’s relationships are also quite disposable too, and it’s no surprise considering how we live our lives. What used to last a lifetime, now only lasts for a short period of time.

So enjoy it while it lasts. Before you know it, the warranty will run out and you will be left hanging without what you thought you needed. The funny thing is, the empty void will still exist. So how does one refill the void?

Some might say religion. Others may say involvement.

I say…I don’t have an answer, as I will continue to buy, as long as there are cool trends, must-have objects of desire and substances and/or things to crave. We have spent our time growing up in an advertiser’s world.

And we don’t look away, it subdues us while we hand out our debit and credit cards and cold hard cash.

We want it. We must have it.

Are we cold and empty? Or are we just right, cozy and content?

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